Dodgers lose, clinch postseason spot for Cardinals

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The Dodgers’ season is over, and one can only hope manager Don Mattingly learned a couple of lessons tonight.

The Giants won 4-3 in L.A. on Tuesday night to end the Dodgers’ playoff hopes and clinch the second wild card for the Cardinals. St. Louis could have clinched with a win earlier in the evening, but the Cardinals to the Reds 3-1.

The Dodgers were down 2-1 in the fifth tonight when Mattingly opted to intentionally walk Angel Pagan with a man on second, setting up a double play with one out. Marco Scutaro immediately followed with a two-run double, giving the Giants a 4-1 lead. The Giants could have kept adding on from there, but after Pablo Sandoval singled, Matt Guerrier came in and managed to strike out MVP candidate Buster Posey.

The Dodgers were able to bounce back in the seventh. A.J. Ellis hit a two-run homer to pull the team within 4-3. Mark Ellis then doubled, only to get thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple with one out. Shane Victorino immediately followed with a triple, yet he was stranded on base when Matt Kemp struck out to end the frame.

Mattingly can’t be blamed for that one. His big decision in the ninth didn’t work out, though. After Andre Ethier singled to start the inning, Mattingly sent up A.J. Ellis to bunt. The catcher fell behind 0-2 trying to get the bunt down and then swung and missed on a slider well outside the strike zone. Once that happened, Mattingly decided to insert Dee Gordon as a pinch-runner and Bobby Abreu as a pinch-hitter. Abreu flew out to left, and though Gordon was able to steal second base with two out, Mark Ellis had his looping liner to center caught to end it.

Barry Zito got his 15th win tonight. The Giants have won each of his last 11 starts, with Zito going 7-0 during the span. He appears likely to be the team’s No. 4 starter in the postseason over Ryan Vogelsong.

Chris Capuano took the loss for the Dodgers. He gave up solo homers to Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias in his three innings of work.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.